As the music director of 93.3 KGSR, it probably comes as no surprise that I get a LOT of music in the mail here. You'd think that I immediately rip open every package like a kid at Christmas, eagerly awaiting what presents should befall my ears - but the truth is, there's a lot of coal. There is so. much. mediocre music these days, or maybe it's just that there's more to wade through because technology has made it easier to access music that has also become easier to self-produce & distribute.
Regardless, my goal is to find the gems. Full length albums that are great all the way through. Fourty-five minutes of music that I can have on repeat in my car for months. Songs that I will excitedly sing back to the band the next time they perform in town. Artists I will shamelessly recommend to every person I meet.
I was so pleased when Glassnote Records sent me Jeremy Messersmith's Heart Murmurs.
The album opens with a song fit for the silver screen (John Hughes would have eaten this ish UP). Messersmith's innocently sweet voice recants the hope and torture of unrequited love, daydreaming that he'd first use the song's title, "It's Only Dancing," as an excuse if they were to be caught waltzing alone together, and later as a lie he tells himself while watching the object of his desire twirl with her brand new husband.
Wistful courtship is a good way to describe the interplay between instruments throughout these delightful 40 minutes of well-crafted, adorable indie-pop. Messersmith's master songwriting skills are bolstered by his equally great ability to arrange the strings, keys, and guitar melodies like jigsaw puzzle pieces fitting perfectly and unexpectedly into place. Perhaps the best example of these talents lies in "You'll Only Break His Heart." The vocal line does not vary much over the course of four minutes and thirty-nine seconds, but rather than feel bored, you feel sucked in by the slow & steady build of various instrumentation until the song explodes in a somber jam even Ben Gibbard would have to bob his head to.
Messersmith's particular style is more reminiscent of Semisonic's Dan Wilson (who, after writing "Closing Time," went on to [co]write other hits such as Adele's "Someone Like You" and The Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice" among many, many others), an observation Messersmith admits is accurate - Wilson produced his second album The Silver City in 2008. His sound also fits next to Ben Folds in the category of nerd rock. That shouldn't be too surprising from a man who once had a music video go viral for a song called "Tatooine" off 2010's Reluctant Graveyard:
But back to this most recent album - other highlights for me include the cleverly conceived "Hitman," a Sean Lennon-esque song called "Bubblin'" (my favorite of the bunch), and the appropriately haunting "Ghost." Check out his solo performance of that last song at our 2014 SXSW Morning Broadcasts from the W Austin Hotel (and the interview in which we bonded over geeky stuff in front of 500 people) ...
... and this fun video of us playing a game Ellen Degeneres created called "Heads Up" at El Sol y La Luna before his show at Stubb's on July 12. I'll let you know the next time he's in town!
@kristenkurtis We played heads up ALL DAY in the van yesterday. Thanks for that!